SW-4 :: How to reach sustainable urbanization?

This research area deals with several of the societal challenges which contribute to the built environment. The impacts of climate change as well as a number of societal trends, including rapid urbanization, ensuring development in peripheral areas, increased migration and an aging population, have led to the need for a more efficient, sustainable and productive built environment. These trends increase the pressures on resource use and existing urban infrastructures. This research area is also related to the functional built environment, regional development and increased competitiveness at the European and global scale. It is important in this area that authorities have the funding and mandate from the government to prioritize these measures and find ways to include all relevant actors (including civil society and the private sector) in addressing these challenges.
The Formas Evaluation of Swedish Building and Planning Research (Formas, 2013) mentions that research from the larger (technical) universities is quite practically-oriented towards Swedish building and planning practices and that the international dimension to such research plays a smaller role. The evaluation also mentions that more fundamental research is needed to ensure a research environment that is capable of meeting new societal challenges.
Following the conceptual model of INSPIRATION, specific topics marked “SH” originate in stakeholder interviews and the workshop and those marked “CN” originate in general research goals identified in the Swedish innovation and research bill, evaluations of Swedish research or identified by other concerned research centres.
• How can both densification and greening of cities be achieved? (CN)
• To what extent is increased underground building a viable option for sustainable urbanization? (CN)
• What role do noise and vibration-free environments play in sustainable urbanization? (CN)
• How can accessibility to sustainable and modern energy be assured? (CN)
Why? Innovation and quality in the built environment is seen as important in order to deal with the challenges of climate change, densification of cities and migration, coupled with the need to build in a sustainable manner and transition to sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Natural capital
• How can the design and multifunctional use of green and blue-green infrastructures be adapted to climate change? (SH)
• How can pressure on, and loss of, urban biodiversity be reduced? (CN)
• How can natural resources be used for efficient supply of alternative and energy efficient building materials (CN)
• What are the effects of a changing climate on ground stability and landslide risks for safe infrastructures? (SH)
Why? This is seen as important to deal with environmental and climate change adaptation issues, e.g. flood prevention and the linkage of urban-rural areas, while at the same time improving nature and people’s well-being, is imperative.
Land management
• How to design technologies and planning tools for climate change adaptation of resource efficient wastewater systems for a sustainable built environment? (CN)
• Which tools can be used for planning for effects of sea level rise and flooding i.e. adapted building in areas near coastal areas and waterways? (SH)
• Innovative technologies and processes for handling polluted materials and polluted land need to be developed as well as planning processes when building on old deposits and polluted land (SH)
• How can heritage governance of the built environment be ensured in a changing climate? (SH)
• How can we increase planning and preparedness for health threats due to heat waves and other severe climate change impacts? (SH)
Why? Again, the effects of a changing climate on the built environment and processes to manage infrastructure systems are still in demand. Both buildings and infrastructure need to be energy-efficient and resilient to climate change impacts as well as being socially sustainable (Formas “Meeting Societal Challenges”, 2015). New developments should also be sustainable, and urbanization processes need to be developed further.
Net impacts
• How can collaboration be improved and conflicts of interests avoided in urbanization processes? (CN)
• What are the barriers to sustainable development in the built environment (identified by all types of stakeholders, e.g. insurance, industry, authorities)?
Why? There is general agreement that all types of relevant stakeholders should be involved in decisions regarding the built environment and quality of life. Involving stakeholders in helping to elaborate applied-research questions can aid in the net impacts that such research (and ensuring policy decisions) might have. At the same time, examples from international research projects can be instrumental in providing Swedish research with “best practices”, new methods and processes.